Court of Appeals Announces Decisions In 11 Criminal Appeals

18 04 2012

Today, the Court of Appeals dismissed one appeal, reversed and dismissed one conviction, affirmed eight convictions, and ordered rebriefing in one case. 

After giving a CLE presentation on properly preserving arguments and putting the correct documents in the addendum last week, the errors continue to mount.  The CLE presentation was basic but hopefully a person or two learn something from it.  In Luevano v. State, the court ordered rebriefing for not supplying all of the orders being appealed from.  In I.P. v. State, the court ruled that the motion for directed verdict was not renewed at the close of all of the evidence; therefore, the motion was not preserved for appeal.  And in Sipe v. State, there were multiple failures to preserve.  First, the motion for directed verdict was not specific nor was it to the lesser included offense for which he was convicted.  Second, the defendant did not proffer a requested jury instruction. 

In Fett v. State, Judge Jo Hart wrote the majority opinion reversing and dismissing Fett’s conviction for simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms.  The trial court erred in denying Fett’s motion for a directed verdict on the charge because the firearm was not loaded nor was there any ammunition found in the residence.  Consequently, Fett’s conviction could not stand.

Lastly, in Fields v. State, the court found no abuse of discretion in failing to the poll the jurors on whether they read the paper that morning.  Fields’ trial ended and the jury went home and came back to deliberate in the morning.  The newspaper wrote an article on the case and noted his prior convictions, a fact the jurors had not been exposed to.  Fields sought to ask the jurors if any of them had read that article and the judge denied the request.  The Court of Appeals ruled that Fields could not prove they read the article; therefore, he could not prove he was prejudiced.

The ruling in Fields is wrong.  If a defendant is not allowed to ask the jury then how will any defendant ever prove prejudice from the existence of an article that would influence the verdict?  Trial judges can protect their jury’s from ever being disqualified by simply not allowing inquiry into their goings on during recess.  This decision makes the jury’s admonition against reading articles on the trial useless because there is no way to ever prove they violated the admonition.  This ruling was wrong, and the trial judge likely permitted a verdict to be rendered unjustly due to a newspaper article.


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